provided by John E. Phillips
Ronnie “Cuz” Strickland has been hunting wild turkeys for more than 50 years. When he first started working as a videographer for Mossy Oak, Cuz was traveling, filming and calling turkeys for about 72 days a year for many years. Today Cuz is Senior Vice President of Media Services at Mossy Oak in West Point, Mississippi, and still is one of the best turkey hunters ever.
One of the most discouraging turkey hunts, especially for a new turkey hunter, is when a gobbler hangs-up - stopping 50-70 yards away from the hunter and not coming into range. This hunter has done everything right up until then, but he can’t close the deal. He’s found land that homes turkeys, he’s scouted and located three spots where his chances are good for calling a turkey, he’s bought the right equipment and the right calls, he’s done everything he’s seen in videos and learned to make a turkey come to him. Although the turkey has moved almost within gun range, but not where the hunter can see him, the gobbler has stopped. Every turkey situation is different.
If a turkey has come a long distance and stopped, gobbled and strutted but doesn’t come in, even if you keep calling, one of two things probably has happened. Either there’s an obstacle like a creek, a fallen tree, a fence or something else in his way, and he’s not going to move to you, or he’s expecting the hen to come to him. This situation is where patience can win the game for you: quit calling and sit still. Either he’ll come to you, or he’ll walk off because the hen hasn’t moved to him. After you haven’t heard the turkey gobble or strut in 30-45 minutes, use a locator call like a crow or an owl call to try and make the turkey gobble again to know where he is. If he’s moved away from you, then get up very slowly, walk toward the spot where you’ve last heard the turkey, and see if you can determine what obstruction’s keeping the turkey from coming to you.
Another thing that can have happened when the tom turkey is gobbling and strutting out of sight is that he’s calling in hens. One or more hens may have snuck in quietly and taken him off in another direction. By using your locator call, you often can cause the turkey to gobble again, even if he’s with hens, and give away his location. Once you know where the turkey is by hearing him gobble, then make a big circle around the gobbler to get in front of or off to the side of him. Use a different type of call, and attempt to call him in again. Another technique that often works to get a hung-up turkey unhung is to scratch in the leaves to sound like hens feeding.
However, you have to use this tactic with the least amount of motion from your hands and arms. When I sit down to call a turkey, I make sure I have a stick sitting right beside me. Then I can use the stick to scratch the ground and make very little motion. Like any other turkey tactic, scratching in the leaves isn’t always going to work, especially if the gobbler has called some hens in that you haven’t seen. But give the scratching leaves a try because you have nothing to lose.